How to Hang a Chandelier
Given the skepticism that my dimmer switch installation post was met with by those of you with (what is in my opinion) an irrational fear of electrocution, I am a little hesitant to encourage you all to embark on even more challenging electrical project. However, replacing an old ugly light fixture and hanging a chandelier is actually a really simple and inexpensive project that can have a huge impact on the look and feel of a room (especially when you put it on a dimmer, I might add). I'm telling you, if you break down and hire an electrician to come in and do it for you, the guy is going to bleed your wallet dry (and I will be so so disappointed). So I will persist in the face of your electrophobia in the hopes that I might, in the process, help you overcome your anxiety. And perhaps I'll shed a little light on the subject.
Here's what you'll need:
Stepladder or sturdy chair
Electrical caps and tape
Chandelier canopy (optional)
A friend to hold the chandelier for a few minutes while you work on the wiring. Also, to call an ambulance if you get electrocuted. (Kidding.)
Disclaimers: In the event that you are trying to hang the chandelier in an area of the ceiling where there is not currently a fixture, you will need to either drape wiring in a chain from another area, or hire an electrician to run wires through the walls to the spot. Also, if your new fixture weighs more than 50 pounds, you may need to replace the ceiling box which will bear the weight (Really? A 50 pound chandelier? Where do you live- Versailles?) That is do-able, but it's a little beyond my pay grade.
Here's what you do:
1. Gather your materials. The only really challenging thing about this project is that once you are up on a ladder and holding a light fixture with one hand, you are going to want everything you need to be at hand. I suggest wearing a tool belt (which has the added bonus of making you feel like a total electrical bad-ass. Just don't get cocky).
2. Turn off the power supply to the room where you will be hanging the chandelier. If the circuits in your circuit breaker box aren't labeled, just flip the switches until the fixture goes off (then please go get a pen and label the switch). I've said it before and I'll say it again- once the appropriate switch is flipped to the "off" position, you are in absolutely no danger of electrocution. I repeat:NO DANGER.
3. Remove the old light fixture. First, you will need to remove the screws from the ceiling canopy, which will disconnect the fixture from the ceiling (so hold onto it). Then unscrew the wire connector caps, releasing that ugly fixture completely. Hand the fixture to your buddy - don't try to climb down the ladder holding the fixture, silly.
4. Prepare the new fixture. Remove any lampshades or dangly crystals from the chandelier before you hang it. Size the length of the chain so that the fixture hangs at the height that you want. Figure out how the chain attaches to the ceiling electrical box- this varies from fixture to fixture, but usually involves screwing a long screw thing into the electrical box's crossbar. Thread the canopy onto the chain, face down. If you can attach the chandelier to the ceiling without obstructing your view of the wires, do so. If not, have your friend get on a ladder or chair beside yours, and hold the new fixture.
5. Attach the wires. Attach the chandelier's white wire to the ceiling's white wire by twisting them together, and screwing an electrical cap over them. Secure with tape, and then repeat with the black wires.
6. Finishing touches. Attach the fixture to the ceiling, if you have not already done so. Push the canopy up the chain to be flush with the ceiling and attach (this will work by either tightening a nut around the center chain hole, or two nuts onto screws on either side of it. For illustrated instructions, click here.
Photo credit: All chandeliers pictured are available for purchase from Shades of Light